In the modern age, where there is constant communication, incessant demands for our time and attention, increasing competitiveness, and more fluid boundaries between work and leisure time, many people suffer from some form of stress. It's no wonder that most of us become easily overwhelmed and feel unable to cope at times. If you're like one of the thousands that find themselves overwhelmed with life, mindfulness may be the answer.
Mindfulness Is Trending
As the pace of life gets faster and faster, so does the anxiety and stress. Oftentimes, we care too much about things that may not really matter or constantly worry about things that are out of our control. Mindfulness can help you compartmentalize the various parts of your life to reduce your stress and anxiety. So what is it exactly? Mindfulness is the process of bringing one's attention to experiences, sensations, thoughts, and feelings occurring in the present moment. It can help you learn how to not care as much about the things that stress you out and bring you peace of mind.
If you're looking for ways to increase your mindfulness, you are not alone. It is estimated that 14% of the US population practices mindfulness using either meditation or yoga, and this number is steadily growing.
Mindfulness can recenter us and help us let go of those things that are not important. It can be a valuable tool for improving happiness as well as your energy levels and creativity. Here are some ways to use mindfulness to your advantage.
Surrender and Letting Go
The practice of mindfulness can involve simple observation in daily life, such as becoming aware of your thoughts, habits, or even being aware of small tasks we take for granted, such as chewing your food, brushing your teeth, or walking. Other organized activities that are designed to cultivate mindfulness in one's daily life include meditation, yoga, qi gong, or tai chi. Mindfulness can also be cultivated by doing one thing at a time.
Most of us are taught and even encouraged to multi-task to get more done, but this can lead to splitting our attention, lack of focus, or making mistakes. This means most of what we do throughout the day often becomes habitual and automatic, which means that we are not truly present or conscious while we are going about our day. Mindfulness can also be as simple as beginning to observe our automatic thoughts, which are negative thought loops that are often just below our conscious threshold, such as "I never do anything right," or, "I am not good enough." By becoming aware of negative thoughts, we gain the freedom and power of choice to challenge or even replace these thoughts.
While many activities we engage in on a day-to-day basis encourage focus, productive activity, and sustained effort, few endeavors encourage us to surrender and let go.
Learning to slow down and awaken into the present moment requires a certain degree of relinquishing the desire to control. Letting go does not mean that you feel nothing and don't care about anything at all. The opposite is true. By letting go of the desire to control and embracing the present, we often begin to become more aware of our emotions, sensations, and thoughts. In fact, we may become more in touch with what our thoughts and emotions are telling us because we are willing to listen rather than blocking or repressing this information.
This doesn't mean that you don't plan for the future or focus on goals. It just means that you can regain perspective and balance planning for the future with a sense of presence and mindfulness in the moment. When we focus all of our energies on planning for the future while neglecting what is happening in the here and now, we are more likely to get in accidents, become ill, or make mistakes. We neglect what is needed in the present. Sometimes, what we need is to step back, breathe, and ask ourselves if what we are worried about is within our control and if not, practice letting it go.
What are some things that are outside of your control?
We don't have control over some of the things that happen to us, but we do have the freedom to choose our own actions and reactions. You can't stop yourself from ever getting sick, but you can try to learn from experiences and do your best to make healthy choices. In fact, challenging situations can be some of the most valuable learning experiences. It can be difficult to see this amid struggles, but, in hindsight and with the gift of perspective, we can usually appreciate this.
There are many different kinds of mindfulness exercises. One type of exercise is known as meditation, which has been practiced for thousands of years. Many different forms of meditation are taught and there are even more books and videos that teach meditation. Below is one of the simplest forms of meditation.
If you experience flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, or increased feelings of anxiety or panic, wait to practice with the aid of a professional.
Little Ways to Practice Mindfulness
A major roadblock that people experience when practicing mindfulness is that they make it into a big production, but it doesn't have to be. Mindfulness can be practiced in little ways and at any time. Here are some little ways you can integrate mindfulness into your everyday life.
Change Up Your Routine
Doing things differently than normal can make you more aware, allowing you to fully experience the present. Do something different (even if it's simply a new coffee shop on the way to work) to bring yourself back to the present moment.
Observe Your Breath
The simple act of observing your breath as you breathe in and out can help calm your mind and your overactive brain. Take a few minutes and focus on the natural rhythm of your breath to recenter yourself when things start to get crazy or stressful.
Pause Before You Act
Before you do anything, take a second to fully experience the present moment. Taking the time to observe the way things feel in your hand, the different sounds you hear in the day, etc. can help you clear your mind and give you energy and creativity.
Be present and listen fully to what is being said to you rather than thinking preemptively about what you are going to say next or as a rebuttal. Fully listening allows you to be present in the conversation and actually understand and acknowledge what the other person is saying to you.
Finding Other Way to Practice Mindfulness
Sometimes the books and the apps teaching you how to be mindful just don't cut it and you need the help of a professional. An in-person or online counselor can help you sort through your thoughts and guide you in mindfulness practices that will yield the most benefit for you depending on your circumstances.
Let BetterHelp Support You
If you’re considering online counseling, consider getting professional help from a BetterHelp counselor. You can do so from the comfort and privacy of your own home and on your own time. Read below for what others have to say about their experience with BetterHelp counselors and their journeys toward mindfulness.
"Sarah Murphy is an amazing therapist. She is so open-minded, compassionate, and teaches me how to be compassionate towards myself. Talking to her helps me to realize so many things about myself, but at the same time, not judge myself. She incorporates a lot of mindfulness and energy healing techniques. It's magical."
"I was honestly skeptical when I first started this but I had to do something in order to get my mind under control! Jacqueline was kind, supportive, wise, and very informative. The exercises she provided were incredibly useful even in situations where it seemed like nothing was working. I was able to act mindful and overcome the demons inside my head. I really appreciate her help and would go back if I wasn't feeling so much better!"
Mindfulness is a practice and not an end goal. By learning to pause, take a deep breath, we can learn how to slow our thoughts down, let go, and move through life with a sense of presence and awareness. If you would like to continue to learn mindfulness and ways to incorporate this and other positive coping skills into your life, take the first step.